Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, we explore the highlights in each of the host cities and venues.
Tuesday, September 29: Tonga v Namibia
Wednesday, October 7: Namibia v Georgia
Sunday, October 11: Italy v Romania
Tucked away in the south-west of England, anyone heading deep into Devon will unearth a real hidden gem. Exeter may be dwarfed in size and stature compared to other World Cup venues, but it is a town full of character mixed with a perfect fusion of rich history and cosmopolitan delights.
The absolute must-see attraction is Exeter Cathedral which dominates the skyline. Built in 1400, many have marvelled at its intricate design and it is firmly established as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture that the UK has to offer.
The Quayside, only a short 10-minute walk from the City Centre, will act as a magnet during your stay, drawing you in with its wide variety of bars, restaurants, antique shops and outdoor activities. From a pleasant walk and 45-minute cruises to canoeing and kayaking, there really is something for everyone in the most picturesque of settings.
Where and what to eat:
Once again, The Quayside is the place to satisfy your inner cravings pre and post-match. Set under the brick arches of a 19th century warehouse, On The Waterfront is renowned for its pizza and pasta dishes to soak up the ale, while Venezia offers a quieter setting on an evening with its Mediterranean cafe-bar and calming waterside garden.
A trip in the UK is not complete without popping into a Red Lion pub. The one located in Tedburn boasts excellent reviews from both locals and visitors, and is well worth the small trip along the A30 to get in the mood for the afternoon ahead. If you fancy somewhere a little closer to the ground, the Piazza bar situated at Sandy Park will allow the pre-match atmosphere to bubble up nicely – just like your cold, comforting pint.
Exeter is a hotbed for real ales and there is no shortage of options to experience the wonders of locally-sourced ingredients regardless of the result. The Ley Arms and The Bridge Inn best encapsulate the traditional values which Exeter prides itself on.
Stadium: Sandy Park
Anything but traditional in Exeter is the ground itself. Built to replace the archaic County Ground in 2006, Sandy Park has steadily grown in stature and appeal thanks to the successes of newly-promoted Aviva Premiership side Exeter Chiefs. The ground is purpose-built for rugby union and for the Chiefs, but Sandy Park has also played host to the England Saxons.
Sandy Park is located in an ideal spot. If you're travelling by car then the ground can be accessed as soon as you turn off from J30 from the M5 motorway, so no winding back lanes to negotiate for your taste of World Cup action. There are three match-day special buses that run to and from the City Centre which is only five miles away and, if you're planning to travel by train, then fear not, as the ground is only a 10-minute walk from Digby & Sowton Station.
The stadium only initially held 8,000, but that has swelled to 12,500 in recent years and shows no signs of stopping there. Being a World Cup venue will hopefully boost a second phase of development which will see Sandy Park become of the one largest club rugby grounds in the country with a planned capacity of 20,600 over the next couple of years. The ground can still generate a loud and memorable atmosphere, despite its gradual growth.